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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Rockies Series Preview

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The Cubs visit Denver for the only time this year.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Rockies are, surprisingly, leading the National League West entering this series with a 20-12 record.

I asked Bryan Kilpatrick, editor at our SB Nation Rockies site Purple Row, to tell us a bit about his team.

This might finally be the year.

No, the Colorado Rockies aren't going to win the World Series. But after six consecutive losing seasons, the Rox look fully capable of breaking the skid and finishing with a winning record -- and maybe a little bit more.

Armed with a strong bullpen and an arsenal of good young pitchers, the Rockies have jumped out to a 20-12 start. The offense has yet to get going -- Trevor Story, DJ LeMahieu, and Carlos Gonzalez, among others, have been mired in slumps -- and injuries have already taken their toll, but Colorado has been able to tread water and will soon get some help with the likes of Jon Gray, David Dahl, and Tom Murphy eventually returning from the disabled list. Until then, though, the Rockies have shown they can win in a way in which they're unaccustomed: by outpitching opponents.

Rookies Antonio Senzatela and Kyle Freeland, both of whom will pitch in the upcoming series against the defending World Series champs, boast sub-3.00 ERAs as a result of consistently inducing weak ground-ball contact. Neither has flashed swing-and-miss stuff to this point, and that could begin to hurt them as the warmer months (and accompanying drier air) approach. But for now, the duo has represented the stabilizing force Colorado's rotation has been missing for years.

Even better is the team's bullpen, which was the worst unit in the league last season. Greg Holland, Mike Dunn, Adam Ottavino and company own the NL's fifth-best ERA and second-lowest FIP through 32 games. Holland, in particular, has been a phenomenal addition. He looks every bit like his 2012-14 self, converting all 13 of his save opportunities while allowing just two earned runs and striking out 17 batters in 14 innings. Lefty Chris Rusin plays a role that is perhaps more vital to the Rockies than any other team. Colorado's primary long man, who came up through the Cubs' system, has posted a 2.65 ERA with 17 strikeouts and just two walks in 17 innings while, in a few cases, allowing the Rockies' offense to work its magic at Coors Field in the middle and late innings.

As mentioned above, the Colorado offense hasn't quite been itself to this point, but that's neither the fault of Nolan Arenado nor Mark Reynolds. Arenado, who should be more of an MVP candidate than he is, owns a .292/.346/.592 line with eight homers and is playing his usual brand of fantastic defense at third base. Reynolds, re-signed by the club as a minor league free agent prior to the season, is hitting .321/.379/.661 with 11 homers and, perhaps most shockingly, has struck out in fewer than 22 percent of his plate appearances.

The rookie starters and Reynolds, among others, will come back down to earth at some point. But if they wait to do so until the Rockies get some depth back from injury, this team could stay in contention much longer than anyone might have thought prior to the season. And, if luck goes the Rockies' way for once (read: no more catastrophic injuries), it could end in the return of Rocktober.

Fun fact

The Rockies are 9-0 in one-run games so far this year (the Cubs are 6-7), which is one big reason for their good 20-12 start. A record like that in one-run games is likely unsustainable, so the Rox could quickly come back to Earth.

Pitching matchups

Monday: Jake Arrieta, RHP (4-1, 4.63 ERA, 1.286 WHIP, 3.78 FIP) vs. Antonio Senzatela, RHP (4-1, 2.84 ERA, 1.026 WHIP, 4.22 FIP)

Tuesday: John Lackey, RHP (2-3, 5.14 ERA, 1.400 WHIP, 4.81 FIP) vs. Kyle Freeland (3-1, 2.65 ERA, 1.324 WHIP, 3.62 FIP)

Wednesday: Kyle Hendricks, RHP (2-1, 3.51 ERA, 1.260 WHIP, 4.72 FIP) vs. German Marquez (0-2, 7.31 ERA, 1.688 WHIP, 4.31 FIP)

Times & TV channels

Monday: 7:40 p.m. CT, CSN Chicago

Tuesday: 7:40 p.m. CT, WGN

Wednesday: 2:10 p.m. CT, CSN Chicago

Prediction

Cool weather with a chance of showers might help pitchers from both teams in this series, if they get the games in. The Rockies are off to the aforementioned good start. The Cubs have never faced any of the three pitchers going in this series. I hesitate to pick two of three because that didn’t work out so well this past weekend... but this Cubs team has to start breaking out somewhere. Might as well be Coors Field. Two of three.

Up next

The Cubs have Thursday off and then head back to St. Louis for their second visit to Busch Stadium this year. A three-game series against the Cardinals begins Friday evening.

Poll

How many games will the Cubs win against the Rockies?

This poll is closed

  • 11%
    3
    (32 votes)
  • 31%
    2
    (89 votes)
  • 40%
    1
    (115 votes)
  • 16%
    0
    (45 votes)
281 votes total Vote Now